A year ago, Husk Restaurant in Charleston was gathering rave reviews for its Southern cuisine and farm-to-table approach.
Bon Appetit named the Queen Street restaurant and its chef, Sean Brock, “Best New Restaurant in America.”
Southern Living called it “Best New Restaurant in the South.”
The accolades came to an end Dec. 17, 2011.
Adam Burnell, Husk’s assistant manager, left the restaurant early that morning after having several after-hours drinks. Headed home to Mt. Pleasant, he rear-ended a Mustang on the Ravenel Bridge. The Mustang slammed into a concrete barricade, killing the driver, 32-year-old Quentin Miller.
Burnell, who suffered minor injuries, was charged with a felony DUI after registering 0.24 on a Breathalyzer – three times the legal limit. He is awaiting trial.
The family of the victim, meanwhile, sued the restaurant, alleging that Husk allowed Burnell to drink on the premises after hours and then get in his car drunk.
“This was not a private residence,” the family lawyer told the Charleston Post and Courier. “These are folks who should have known better. They are as much to blame, in our opinion, as the driver himself.”
The suit was settled last week, with Husk’s owners paying out $1.1 million for its part in the wrongful death.
As tragic as this episode has been, it ought to serve as a warning to all restaurants, nightclubs and sports bars: Do not let your employees – or your customers, for that matter – get behind the wheel after a night of drinking.
Call a cab. Call a friend. Make him or her sleep it off. Call the police. Whatever it takes.
If a restaurant with the reputation of Husk can be held responsible and suffer such costly consequences, one can only guess what might happen to other bars and restaurants. More than one could be put out of business in an instant.
Consider it a wake-up call.
Contact BOB BESTLER at firstname.lastname@example.org.